Fire Starters

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals

Storytelling and Fundraising Events

Storytelling and fundraising events go together like peanut butter & jelly. When I saw this fun infographic from Maximillion about choosing the right fundraising event for your nonprofit organization, I knew I had to share it with you. Deciding which event comes first, of course. No matter what kind of event you have, don’t forget, you ALWAYS want to find a way to incorporate a story. The sharing of your stories will cause your participants to feel more deeply connected to your mission AND take action to support your work. I’ve even got a cool resource to help you! I have a free eBook Mission Possible: Checklists for Successful Storytelling, you can download FREE! In my eBook I’ve gathered some of my favorite storytelling tips and it includes a bunch of examples for how you can include storytelling before, during, and after your fundraising...

Activity Status Updates for Your Fundraising Success

Whether you are a Fitbit activity tracker or managing an annual fundraising campaign it seems we all focus on our activity status updates. I’ve trained waitresses, restaurant owners, marketing and fundraising staff, and even public speakers. After training others for more than 30 years I know for a fact that a status update truly does help keep people on track and achieving or exceeding their goals. A Fundraising Success Matrix (download it here) is a tool I created to use when working for an extended time with a team that wants to increase their individual donor fundraising. This simple, powerful tool assists in managing the many details of making a number of changes quickly. Conversations and updates on the topics listed on this worksheet keep actions visible for up to 20 key areas of focus. The matrix often looks slightly different from organization to organization depending on their maturity, staffing and time commitment. The format for tracking can be a Word doc, Excel, Trello (a free online project management tool) or simply a white board. Key outcomes when using the matrix are: 1. Provides a built-in agenda for check-in meetings; 2. Helps the team remember what they promised; 3. Keeps the team focused on their goal and the steps to reaching it; 4. And always, always ensures the team members agree to the “by when” for their next action. Go ahead and download the worksheet or create your own. My recommendation though: don’t spend too much time ON creating or updating the matrix. Spend your time on the tasks that update the status on the matrix. That’s when you’ll...

Hurry & You Can Get Feedback on Your Year-End Appeal!

I’m giving feedback on pre-submitted fundraising appeal letters TOMORROW, August 20. My goal is to have your fall appeal stand out from the crowd this year. Here are just a few things I’ll cover on tomorrow’s webinar: The three things people read BEFORE they read your letter. How many times should you make an ask in your appeal? What’s the best use of the P.S.? How to give your letter the “you” test. If you send me a draft of your year-end appeal letter for THIS YEAR by the end of the day today (August 19). . . I’ll give you feedback on it tomorrow during my Ignited Fundraising Webinar. I’ll accept up to 5 more letters by end of business today, August 19. Send your letter to me directly and I’ll let you know how to join me for the webinar. This webinar is fun, fast-paced and packed with information about what works and what doesn’t in your mail appeal. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity for...

This Digital Storytelling Site Made Me Weep With Joy

Anything with the word storytelling in the title catches my eye. I’m a passionate teller of stories and a passionate teacher of how to share powerful stories. So, when I read through the blog post “Isn’t it time for a new story? Innovative approaches to nonprofit storytelling.” I was awestruck when I found a totally inspiring digital storytelling page. The folks at Volunteer Toronto have taken the to time post more than 100 stories on their Tumblr website Volunteers of Toronto. #VolunteersofTO Take a moment and visit the site and get inspired. Often I’m asked by over-worked and uninspired staff “How do we inspire donors if we don’t have any ‘good’ stories?” To me, this site is a perfect example of inviting snippets of stories from anyone and everyone: donors, volunteers, staff, families of clients, community partners. . . and more. . . to talk about your work and how it affects them. THOSE are GOOD stories. What could your organization do to capture and publish heartfelt stories too? I’m always on the lookout for more inspiration. If you’ve got a social media site with excellent storytelling, please share the link in the comments...

My Sources for Inspiration: 45+ Resources for Fundraising Professionals

I love to read. I read for both business and pleasure regularly. Which is why I’m delighted and honored to find the book I co-wrote with 7 of my esteemed colleagues:  The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits made this list of the Top 20 Fundraising Books! It’s a rewarding feeling that our collaboration can be a source of knowledge and inspiration for people working in the nonprofit sector. It got me to thinking about the resources I turn to when I need inspiration, advice, or ideas.  Check out the list below for a some of my “go to” reads: I’ve also included a PDF you can download with the Resource & Source Materials list I often share at my training sessions. Any one of these would be an excellent resource to add to your “To Be Read” list. Money The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist Creating Affluence: Wealth Consciousness in the Field of All Possibilities, Deepak Chopra Rich Dad, Poor Dad – What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That The Poor DoNot!, Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter, Fundraising & Nonprofit Management Donor-Centered Fundraising: How to Hold Onto Your Donors…, Penelope Burk Prospect Research for Fundraisers. The Essential Handbook, Jennifer J. Filla, Helen E. Brown Asking: A 59 Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers & Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, Jerold Panas Business Linchpin, Seth Godin Switch. How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip Heath & Dan Heath The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work & What To Do About It, Michael E. Gerber Storytelling Complete Storytelling System, Lori L. Jacobwith...

Summer Story: Wild & Crazy Donor Recognition

I absolutely love it when an organization gets creative with their donor engagement and recognition. At Clare Housing in Minneapolis their mission is a serious one: To end AIDS in Minnesota through equitable access to housing and healthcare. Raising awareness and fundraising dollars for a serious mission doesn’t have to be dark or solemn. When done well, with fun, play, and even some whimsy the work generates action, dollars, and awareness. Annually the organization must raise nearly $600,000 from the community to close what I call their annual funding gap. The gap is the difference between what it costs to deliver their services and what they have raised to date. We are halfway through the year and that gap has closed by just over $100,000. So there’s work to be done. This summer the team at Clare Housing is working hard to recruit table hosts for their October 7, 2015 annual A Place To Call Home fundraising breakfast. The event is free, with a free meal, and a goal to inspire attendees to make a financial contribution for multiple years, preferably at $1000 or more a year. Hosting a table is a commitment. It means you find, recruit, cajole, or beg friends, colleagues, and family to join you for an inspiring hour at the event in the fall. The key to holding a financially successful event is to have at least half the guests in the room know something about the organization BEFORE they attend the breakfast. So, back to recruiting table hosts. This spring, the goal at Clare Housing was to identify & recruit up to 50 people who...

Year-End Appeals: What Causes a Donor to Feel Like Giving

I know, I know it’s July and I’m bringing up year-end appeals. If stores can have back-to-school stuff on display, we can, and likely should, start talking about year-end appeals, right? From my experience it takes good planning, all year-long, to create successful end of year campaigns. For many of  you, your year-end appeal brings in half or more of your annual fundraising revenue. So, please don’t leave your big or even small details to the last minute. To help you ignite your planning I’ve dug through my archives to find some helpful resources for you: 1. Check out this short list of tips on how to appeal to your donors. 2. Here’s an excellent infographic on How to Really Write an Annual Fundraising Appeal Letter. 3. Finally, here’s a short excerpt from an Ignited Fundraising Community webinar I delivered about how to make your fundraising appeals better than ever. In this clip, we’re discussing what causes a donor to feel like giving when they receive your year-end appeal. (Psst. . . members you can watch the entire video and all the previous webinars in the webinar...

Your Data Story: Measuring Your Path to Donations and Engagement

I recently had the honor of spending time in Los Angeles speaking at a conference with the wise and very fun Katie Delahaye Paine, author and Queen of Measurement. Katie discussed measurement effectiveness for nonprofit organizations and shared these Six Steps to Success. (For more information check out Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, the best-selling book Katie co-authored with Beth Kanter.) I got to follow with a session I love to deliver: Using Dashboards to Dazzle Your Staff and Board. (My slides can be found on SlideShare.) When I asked Katie the question: “What is the ONE THING” that staff and board leadership should focus on in their measurement, here’s what she said: My session then took the data and measurement discussion a step further where we discussed how to best SHOW your data in interesting easy to understand displays. The message both Katie and I underscored is to identify and share data that is clear and inspires action from others. The goal with any dashboard, chart or graph is simple: SPECIAL NOTE: I’ll be delivering the Using Dashboards to Dazzle Your Staff and Board session in Minneapolis on July 23, 2015 at the MCN/AFP Nonprofit Fundraising Conference....

Is There a Magic Mix of Fundraising Approaches?

This week I’m honored to present this guest post by Melissa S. Brown, manager of the Nonprofit Research Collaborative and our guest speaker for July’s Ignited Fundraising Community webinar. Do you wish you could find out exactly how much to money to raise by direct mail? Through email? At events? Wouldn’t it be terrific to have a formula or SOMETHING that would help make it easy to create an annual fundraising plan with the exact right mix of fundraising approaches? So what are the approaches you can choose from? Maybe you’ve heard online giving is rising fast and you want to get on board? Great! Online giving is one of the fastest growing types of giving. Still, it accounts for less than 10% of the total nationally. Organizations where online giving is a major boost to revenue handle it with care and attention, investing in personnel and technology to make it work seamlessly for the donor. Some fear direct mail is “dead,” but all evidence suggests it is alive and well. While revenue is not increasing as fast through direct mail as through other venues, it is still used by nearly 80% of charities as one of the principal approaches to raise funds. And more great news: Recently, organizations have seen increases in direct mail receipts after the doldrums of the recession years. Giving USA reports that 72% of all giving is from individuals, but when looking at secular causes that drops to 65%. Many very successful organizations raise significant funds from institutional donors such as corporations and foundations that share the organization’s vision of an improved world. Now...

The Early Bird Raises More Money

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say you haven’t raised all the money you need this year. If you have, stop right here. You don’t need to read the rest of this blog post — congratulations for raising all that you need! If you’re not quite there yet, read on.  I’ve got something that will definitely help you raise more money this year. I just opened registration for my wildly popular Fundraising and Storytelling workshops, to be held in Minneapolis on August 6, 2015. You may be thinking, “So what?” Why do I want you to spend the day with me? Because when you attend these workshops, you WILL raise more money and create a fundraising culture shift at your organization. I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times before. Past attendees report they increased fundraising revenue by up to 75%, clarified donor communication, and built deeper board engagement, all by attending my 3-hour Imagine What’s Possible workshop and 2-1/2 hour Storytelling workshop! How, you ask? We kick-off the fast-paced, resource-rich session by learning some new fundraising best practices. I’ll share some powerful exercises for engaging your board in being awesome ambassadors. You’ll learn why donors give and why they stop giving. YOU get precious planning time to create a mini-action plan that will be sure to increase your fundraising dollars THIS YEAR. And we’ll spend the afternoon learning how to find, craft and share powerful stories that cause people to take action, immediately. My pledge to you: You’ll leave with a plan, you’ll be confident and comfortable bringing what you’ve learned to your board and other staff,...

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